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Laundromatic by Verity Watson
Ch. 1: Tide
Author's Note: Set in an alternate Season Five. In Drive It Like You Stole It, Buffy needs to track a Genther demon the next town over. Riley's gone back to Iowa for a visit, so her only choice for a ride is Spike. After a fun-filled evening, he kisses her - and drives away. This takes place the next night.

You might think that being a creature of the night exempts you from routine housekeeping. Not so. Oh, sure, if you’re rich as Croesus, you hire a pack of human servants to straighten your Picassos.

The rest of us mere immortals? We’ve gotta dust our coffins just like the rest of you.

Which is why I’m slouched in the Sunnydale Laundromat at 3 a.m., waiting for my darks to wash and thumbing through a back issue of People when she stumbles in.

Despite her slayer strength, she’s struggling with a backpack and two sacks. Girl’s got muscles, yeah, but only so much she can do about a heavy door on a windy night.

And so I head over and prop the door with the toe of my boot.

“Thanks,” she says, automatically.

Then she looks up.



We’ve wrestled her bags through the uncooperative doorway, and she’s hefted them to the sorting table.

“Care to tell us what brings you to the seedier side of Sunnydale?”

She glares at me and gestures to the table spilling over with the Summers’ laundry.

“Well, yeah, I get that you’re here to do the washing. Just thought that a comfy suburban hacienda such as yours would come equipped.”

She’s sorted everything into three piles, and I start shoveling the towels into an open washer.

“Dawn was tie-dying her bed sheets and there was some sort of mishap. Flooding was involved.”

“Ah. And your mum?”

“Sleeping. This new medication they’re trying is pretty intense.”

“So you’re going to try to sneak in the Maytag repairman when she’s not about, and in the meantime, handle all the housewifery by dark of night?”

She’s loaded up all of her washables. My fingers itch to nab one of her lacy thongs, but wouldn’t you know it? She sorted those personally. As her three machines begin their familiar hum, Buffy flops into an orange vinyl chair and sighs.

I take it as an invitation, and flop next to her.

After the other night’s kiss, I’m looking for a repeat. Maybe even more.

What? A fella can dream.

But she’s all sturm und drang tonight, and I don’t know where to begin.

With a sigh of my own, I pick up my magazine.


“Is that, like, a menu for you?”

I lower my reading material. “Wot? People?” I snort. “Not unless I’m going to head over to Dawson’s Creek and take a bite out of Pacey and Joey.”

“That’s not funny.”

“It’s your joke, luv.”

She fidgets.

“Worried about your mum?”

After a long pause, she finally nods. “Yeah.”

“And something else?”


She chews on her lower lip.

A little old lady in a bad wig joins us, bringing the Sunnydale Laundromat census up to a grand total of three.

“You don’t want to talk about it?”

She grimaces.

“Ah. You don’t want to talk about it with me.”

Her expression tells me I’m close, and I take another shot.

“Let me guess. Righteous Finn came back from his visit to Iowa and all is not well with our young lovers.”

She flinches.

“I’m right, then.”

“Spike-” she glances towards the little old lady, but Poligrip is focused on a paperback romance. “Can we just – just not?”

I tilt my head and study her. I’m right. And I’m biting back glee.

“Okay, yes. He came back this morning and … it’s over.”

“Just like that?”

“He’s moving back to Iowa.”

“That right?”

“Mason City.”

“Can’t say I’ve heard of it.”

“Apparently, they make Jell-o.”

“Captain Courageous is moving back to Podunkville to make Jell-o.”

“No. He’s moving back to Podunkville to help his uncle with the hog farm.”

“Not sure if that’s any better.”

“He asked me to come with him.”

“Ah. And you said?”

Just then my washing machine buzzed. What with the black duffle atop it, and the limited population of the place, it was obviously mine.

“You should get that.”

“It’ll keep.”




By the time I’ve tossed my Levis and black tees into the dryer, Buffy has her nose buried in a textbook.

Except that it’s pretty clear she’s not really reading, because her hands never lift to turn a page.

I peek over.


She nods. “I have to write a paper on The Fovvies.”

“Think you mean Les Fauves.”

“Whatever.” She shrugs.

“Well, if you can’t say it, don’t imagine you’re going to do so well on your little test, yeah?”

She goes back to staring blankly at the page.

“Was there, you know. Could tell you things.”

She stops reading, but doesn’t look up. I pry the book from her hands. There’s a big illustration of La Danse on the page.

“See this? The lines, so stark. And the color? Vivid. To you, it doesn’t look so surprising. But back then? Growin’ up on Gainsborough, this was a revelation.”

She’s staring at me. Fine, I got carried away.

“Anyhow, Les Fauves means wild beasts, and it wasn’t exactly a flattering nickname. Louis Vauxcelles coined the term. Didn’t know him personally, but heard tell he was a real prig. Named the cubists, too – bizarre cubiques.”

She’s still staring.


“You speak French.”


“And you know stuff about art.”

“Well, once upon a time, before MTV – before television even, we had to keep ourselves amused somehow.”

“When you weren’t tearing your way across Europe being all scourge-y.”

“Yeah,” I reply, a bit defensive now. “Art galleries, theaters, little cafés, all those places were open in the dark. It’s where we’d go to get a spot of amusement of the non-killing kind.”

“Theaters? I’m so glad I was born in 1980. Next you’ll be telling me you went to see opera.”

I return her textbook and wonder how to reply. “Was in the audience for the premiere of La Boheme.”

Even she recognizes the name, and I see her searching for a snappy comeback. She can’t come up with one, so she snorts.

“Slayer, you know there was nightlife before techno, right?”

“Sure. I’ve heard of disco.”

I roll my eyes and pick up People.